Daily Archives: April 21, 2011

CKCU FM review by Bernard Stepien

Ivo Perelman / Torbjörn Zetterberg / Daniel Levin – Soulstorm (CF 184)
Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman moved from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Boston in 1981 to study at the Berkley School of Music. Since then, he has been performing and recording both in the US and Europe, namely with pianist Paul Bley and Matthew Shipp. He is known for extreme projects such as his Blue Monk Variations, 1996 where he made a CD exclusively playing Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk in a solo format. Tonight, we will play his Clean Feed double CD, Soulstorm, that has yet another peculiarity, the band. Pedro Costa, producer of Clean Feed offered Perelman to be recorded, but Perelman after accepting the offer told Pedro Costa to find the sidemen. On top of the fact that this project has been achieved with a band that never played together before, the choice of instruments is also out of the ordinary and did not deter Perelman from further engaging. Bass, Torbjörn Zetterberg and Cello, Daniel Levin perfectly blends in with the low register by definition of the tenor. The result is stunning. The conclusion: who needs drums in Jazz? Also, that story is in sharp contrast with the traditional picture of too marketing oriented producers of major labels that are notorious for steering musicians off their holy missions.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Ricardo Gallo’s Tierra de Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
Some free improv dates are neither here nor there. Ricardo Gallo’s The Great Fine Line (Clean Feed 209) manages to avoid that. It’s here. By that I mean it has an immediacy. The composed sections structure the freedom in ways that bop heads frame the improvisations. Only this is not bop derived in any palpable way.

But like for example one of those Sonny Simmons ESP dates from the ’60s, there is the framework of the melodic head routines and there are rhythmic-harmonic and melodic turning-pivoting points that the soloists work within. Those structural elements provide a scaffolding to the proceedings. And they do so in varying ways.

On the level of the players themselves there is good musical event making. Gallo is a pianist who works out of structures himself, regardless of whether they are those set up for the band’s improvisations or just self-imposed. So in that way his playing is a microcosm of the larger group context.

Trombonist Ray Anderson plays himself, which makes him a good addition to just about any date I can think of that he has been on. He can get flat-out boisterous but there is a more introspective side to his playing as well.

And he makes a good contrast with fellow front-liner Dan Blake, who is mostly on soprano but straps on his tenor for two numbers. Blake is a little chameleon-like, tailoring his improvisations to the moment. His soprano work comes off more convincingly than his tenor on this date, but of course that may just be the luck of the draw and what take ends up being used? That’s only speculation. At any rate the two engage in effective and consistently interesting two-part improvised counterpoint at times, and that gives you some of the high points of the set.

Mark Helias is his dependable inspired self here, whether arco or pizz. Satoshi Takeishi and/or he and Pheeroan Aklaff provide a dynamically loose and entirely appropriate percussive foundation for what is going on.

Gallo the bandleader is quite present here in the choices made on who does what and when; Gallo the pianist I would like to hear more of in a smaller context to get a better handle on where he would go, but what he is doing on this one shows that he is a player of promise–like Andrew Hill in his prime, Gallo is dedicated to doing what fits his compositional stance. And finally Gallo the composer of heads, tails and centers certainly comes through here in good ways. He DOES do a short duet with Aklaff on “Improbability,” and it comes off as slightly tentative but not uninteresting.

Those who don’t have the money for everything may find this one less indispensable than some other new releases. But protracted listens may well make you a believer. It is a fine band and Gallo puts a singular stamp onto the proceedings in ways that make me want to hear more of him. I am glad I have heard this one and will most definitely be listening more. So there you are.

NPR Music review by Kevin Whitehead

Tim Berne: Slow-Cooked Jazz
Tim Berne – Insomnia (CF 215)
Saxophonist Tim Berne came up on New York’s so-called “downtown scene” 30 years ago. That scene is known for postmodern jump-cutters like John Zorn, who’d leap from one style to another in the space of a beat. But Berne went another way — he’s fascinated by gradual transitions. In his music, improvisers take their time, wending their way from theme to theme over a long, continuous set.

Insomnia is a lost-and-found live recording from 1997, now out on the Clean Feed label. The music sounds so fresh that the 14-year wait is barely worth mentioning; it’s pre-stood the test of time. Berne plays in all sorts of combos, but the sound here is more sumptuous than usual, owing to expanded resources. Eight pieces include a string trio of violin, cello and bass, augmented by a rhythm instrument rare in improvised music; Marc Ducret plays acoustic 12-string guitar with a woody, steely, ringing sound.

Berne likes long pieces where players drop in and out; the shorter of two suites on the new Insomnia runs half an hour. But he brings a keen sense of proportion to the music, even when the players spend far more time inching between melodies than playing those lovely themes themselves. The tunes are sturdy bridge piers, supporting the improvisations that span them. Early on, Berne learned from his mentor Julius Hemphill the power of majestic long tones, and of taking your time in a style of music where players often hurry.

Berne’s written lines are dissonant but orderly; their strong shapes are ready-made for improvised paraphrasing. Sometimes, a renegade soloist will spin variations right over the melody, so you get the tune and the improvisation at the same time.

I love the undulating texture of Berne’s octet sound, as Chris Speed’s clarinet melds with violin, and violin with cello, and cello with Berne’s alto sax, and his baritone sax with bass. That blurring of timbres adds an air of mystery, like ghostly figures passing through long-exposure photographs. But the progress of Berne’s long suites unfolds like a road novel, full of picaresque or elliptical episodes, with heroes who end up far from where they started. Or, put yet another way, Tim Berne is a master of slow cooking. He keeps you waiting, but it’s worth it.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Mostly Other People Do the Killing – The Coimbra Concert (CF 214)
Live jazz has traditionally gained a certain cache among the cognoscenti. In the age of the 78, artists were limited to the three or four minute cut; live playing allowed them the stretch out. With the advent of the LP, artists could go on for quite a bit longer, which they started to do on Prestige albums in the early ’50s and everywhere else after that. The CD enabled even longer stretches, as we all know. Nonetheless the live situation puts improvisers in less clinical environments, ideally in front of an appreciative audience. So there has still been something to be said about the live appearance and the live recording for capturing jazz at its uninhibited best.

The appearance of a live 2-CD set of Mostly Other People Do the Killing [The Coimbra Concert (Clean Feed 214)] naturally brought out a set of heightened expectations when I took it out of its mailer several weeks ago. MOPDTK in the studio can be boisterous and wild. What will the band live sound like? More so? To jump ahead, I was not disappointed.

This is a fine band. Peter Evans (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (tenor and sopranino), Moppa Elliot (double bass) and Kevin Shea (drums) are some very impressive new players on the scene individually, and together they rise to some high places indeed.

So we have the band in a live concert. As is often the case with this band, the cover is a send-off–this time of a Keith Jarrett album. It has a shot of an intensely introspective pianist going to it on the cover. Between the gatefold and outside covers, all four band members are shown being expressive and intense at the piano, only, of course, the joke is that there is no piano on this record or as a part of the group!

The music? Like the ICP Orchestra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, MOPDTK can indulge in outrageously exuberent semi-parodies and pastiches of past jazz styles. The approach shows a profound respect for the forms, but also a kind of over-the-top playfulness that is not unlike a kid getting out of hand with the fingerpaint. There is no adult present (so far as I can determine) to stop the “nonsense” and so it beautifully and delightfully continues through the course of two long CDs worth of music. And they do some “serious” playing here throughout as well.

It’s another fine outing from a band that has become an essential part of what’s going on that’s good in today’s jazz. They combine the “in” of tradition with the “out” of near-perdition in their own very considerably musical and very considerably hysterical way. I mean that in a good way.

MOPDTK has become a group one should not miss. This set shows them growing as a band, glowing as individual players, and having a hell of a lot of fun in the process. Yeah!